athens bars and restaurants
Some attractive eateries and bars in Athens, Greece for food and drink during the winter season.
Floral Books and Coffee, Themistockleous Square tel: 2103800070
About a 15-minute direct walk from Omonia metro station (translated into the real world this means don’t even try to get there in less than half an hour unless you’ve done your orienteering beforehand dib, dib, dib), or you could use my failsafe trick in getting to a venue – hailing a cab.
During the day this is a lovely café cum bar with a very civilised bookshop tucked into the back. At night it’s a bar that serves Guinness in great big dirty pints that’ll make you feel right at home. FLIRT ALERT: there’s a cosmopolitan quirk to the powder room in that it’s a guys ‘n’ gals affair happily clad in turquoise mosaic tiles, has enough light in which to touch up your make-up and one of those sociable sinks with sleek and sophisticated plumbing. If you can tear yourself away from here or if it happens to be a quiet night, ask the fella who shows you how to operate the tap where the Playhouse is from here. (It’s only round the corner, but I’d put money down he’ll be cute enough to ask.)
Yiavteq, Valtetsio Street 44 tel: 2103301369
Just up the road from the Playhouse pub – which has modern plastic furniture like giant kindergarten stools in fun colours, an art-school approach to painted walls and pendant lights and a get-right-to-business discretion at the bar – and just as if the universe is giving you a great big hug of sense, this restaurant Yiavteq is a hop, skip and perhaps a little bit of a skitter if you’ve high heels on, away.
The name ‘Yiavteq’ has something to do with the wishbone of a chicken. What I got from the largely mimed explanation was that it’s the pinkie game where you pull apart the wishbone. There’s no getting away from the fact that Greek is a foreign language, whether the night is young and you’ve sagely gone for the grub first to girder your loins for the night of frolics or copped onto yourself midway through the evening to catch your breath.
In November late afternoon it was warm enough to sit out in the courtyard that’s serenely shaded with mature trees, though the glazed wall to the restaurant proper looked inviting for later on.
It offers a menu of Mediterranean dishes ranging from what I thought would be a starter of salad (that arrived in a mountainous pile on a dinner plate) and my main was a Greek dish of pasta with chicken pieces and vegetables covered in a sauce flavoured by the cubes of smoked, fatty pork (that I gave to an adorable cat who miaowed delicately and politely).
The bread basket was of delicious artisan breads and they generously gave me a shot of ouzo as a digestif. (As I’m good-looking, sincere and charming they may not do this for you…)
(I don’t have to point to every instance when my tongue’s in my cheek, sure I don’t? OK, we’ll take it as read next time)
This is a side street off Omonia Square on the Hondos Centre corner that’s dedicated to foodhalls. The very last, that meets Veranzero St, does a busy day-in, day-out trade in coffees for shoppers looking to give their toots a rest before retaking to the fray, but one of its dishes is a perfect option for any parents travelling with small kids. Three fresh and juicy mini-burgers served with chips and salad that will delight a child. (Altogether they delighted an adult but its readymade easy division and cute proportions could be a boon to parents.)
The next café along is a predominantly a bakery that specialises in very good cakes, as in it uses fresh cream, light-as-air sponge cakes and portions of tiny hot doughnuts. The slice of chocolate cake with a mouse on top is a star attraction, though it must be said that it was cheering to see hordes of regular Athenians making a deliberate detour to get take-out family treats here every day.
Lastly in this triumvirate of great cafés (though there are many other on this street) is a homey, low-key restaurant that attracts Greek diners looking for local dishes such as stuffed peppers, kebabs, lamb stews and fish dishes.
The Plaka Café (I’ve no idea how to anglicise the Greek St name here) Tel: 2103220388
There’s an absolutely breath-taking walk through laneways lined with frothy flowers*, pastel-coloured classically-shaped elegant houses framed with white plaster, meandering public walkways that are no more than twisty steep paths of steps of hewn stone through what seems like the residents’ gardens. Bear in mind that it’s breath-taking also in the sense of Oh My God that hill looked less arduous about a mile ago…
Follow the road from Paleo Agora, which is a square near Monastiraki metro station with art galleries among the souvenir shops, until it narrows to a path up to the Akropolis. Or give in halfway up the hill and nip into the Plaka Café for brunch. The roof garden is the thing here. The menu’s coffee, club sandwiches, big bowls of fruit salad, all delish and reasonably priced. Its main salads were around €8 in November 2009. It’s worth looking up for the ‘on deck’ feeling the roof garden lends the atmosphere, the vibrancy of the young Greek professional and creative clientele and the Pierre Cardin-style treatment of solid, vivid colour on the furniture.
Akri, Iroon Square (Tournavitou St) Tel: 2103240121
Less hard to find is Iroon square, which is a central outdoor seating area surrounded by a range of restaurants and cafes that vary in décor and menus. Again, they’re café cum snack bars during the day and hotspots at night. Here you’ve the choice of traditional Greek taverna or my favourite Akri – it has generously sized portions for burgers, club sandwiches and so on, sophisticated contemporary décor and a great atmosphere.
My favourite restaurant in Syntagma that I kept returning to is Politi.co beside the main post office. This is buzzing with locals day and night and it’s worth watching what they order from a plate of light, cheesy puffs of open pies, or spinach-filled filo pastries to chopped mint salads to accompany a meat dish.
The second is this gorgeously girly one that’s pictured. I’ve lost the receipt so I don’t know its name but it’s on Metropolis Street between Politi.co and the Lithos jewellery shop that I’ve raved about in another hub. (I only rave when it’s worth it. Just so you know.)
* Climbers like plumbago and bougainvillea, in massed and trailing tendrils.